Eating lunch at Vellee’s in the skyway during a break in the Chauvin trial last week, I heard a good cover version of the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” I loved that song for its craft and uplifting spirit when it hit the charts in 1987 and later went to see Neil Finn (the group’s primary songwriter) when he performed solo one Monday night at the old Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
I thought if I ever put a 60-minute setlist together, as the artists featured on WUMB’s Guest Mix show do, that song would have to be on it. Here is a setlist exploring a few of the nooks and crannies of my taste in popular music for my own mix this morning.
Everybody must know Elvis Presley’s moving version of “Crying in the Chapel.” Let’s go back to the original Sonny Til and the Orioles doo wop version (1953). Something in the song touched Elvis deeply.
I don’t think the Chicago vocal group the Sheppards ever made an album. When the Solid Smoke label compiled their ’60s recordings for an album released in 1980, Rolling Stone gave it a rave review. Rolling Stone declared the Sheppards the missing link between doo wop and soul. “Island of Love” led off the album.
I love the a capella group The Persuasions. I stopped into their dressing room to express my regard for them after one of their shows at the old Duffy’s bar in south Minneapolis when they performed there in 1982 or so. (My brother owned the bar.) Having just gotten off stage, they broke into Sam Cooke’s “Ain’t That Good News” and let me sing along. Oh, what a night. The video below provides their rendition of Whitfield and Strong’s Temptations number “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)” from Street Corner Symphony. As for the song title, don’t forget that important parenthetical!
We’re somewhere in the vicinity of Motown. Does anybody remember “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” Jimmy Ruffin turned it into a hit with his heartfelt version on Motown in 1965. Patrick Stump and Daryl Hall revisit the song in the video below.
The anniversary of Fred Neil’s birth is coming up this week. He’s the guy who wrote “Everybody’s Talking.” An influential Greenwich Village songwriter and artist with a resonant baritone voice, he quit show business soon after Midnight Cowboy turned the Harry Nilsson version of the song into a hit. Below is Neil’s adaptation of Elizabeth Cotten’s “Shake Sugaree” — “I’ve Got a Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree).”
Seals and Crofts had a lot of hits, but I doubt many readers know “Gabriel Go On Home,” off their second album. The song seems to refute the proposition stated as a rhetorical question in the lyrics: “Is it wise to sympathize when harmony has been kicked in the knee?” Producer John Simon plays the beautiful piano part on the recording.
The Association used to be one of my guilty pleasures. However, I have come out as an unabashed Association lover. They are backed by the Wrecking Crew with their own characteristically terrific vocal arrangement on “Like Always” (1968). These guys could sing and they had enough good material to fill up two compact discs for a best of collection.
James Taylor’s birthday was last week. Whatever we may think of his politics, he is a talented singer/songwriter. Indeed, Peter Asher quit his job as head of A & R for Apple to manage Taylor. James’s “Secret O’ Life” (1977) packs some homespun wisdom into the lyrics (“Einstein said he could never understand it all”).
“I’ll Tag Along” is a 1986 Gordon Lightfoot number. A gifted singer/songwriter, he grabs me in this relatively unknown song.
John Hiatt is another brilliant singer/songwriter. I think his “Feels Like Rain” is a Cosmic American Music classic.
Late of New Zealand’s Split Enz, Neil Finn formed Crowded House in Melbourne, Australia. Crowded House concluded their farewell tour with an emotional homecoming performance of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” at the Sydney Opera House in 1996. The group reunited in 2006 after the suicide of Crowded House drummer Paul Hester.
Counting Crows is a group saturated in the ’60’s music I love. “Omaha” is off their 1993 debut album August and Everything After (perfectly produced by T-Bone Burnett). Adam Duritz explained the origin of the song here a few years ago.
I am crazy about Shawn Colvin. Speaking of crazy, she took the song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley (Cee Lo Green et al., 2006) and turned it into something of a personal statement. Her interpretation is obviously informed by her own struggles with mental health issues.
Shawn wrote “That Don’t Worry Me Now” for These Four Walls (2006) after watching a PBS documentary about Martin Luther King (as I recall her explanation from one of her shows). The live version below dates to 2012.
Inspired by Crowded House, I went in search of uplift this morning. You may recall Marc Cohn’s tip that “Reverend Green be glad to see you when you haven’t got a prayer.” I would cite this 1989 all-star version of Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” as my favorite live performance on YouTube. The all-stars include Toni Childs, Carlos Santana, David Sanborn, the Tower of Power Horns, Tito Puente, Melissa Etheridge, Darlene Love, and Patti Austin. The video below has the best audio track I could find. I think Tito Puente gets in the last lick on the timbales.